BP accused of lying to govt during Gulf oil spill

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm •  Published: September 30, 2013
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The employee, Mike Mason, warned them that they should be "very cautious" standing behind the lower estimate because his team's models showed estimates that were up to 20 times higher.

Mason said he was called in for a meeting the following day with Inglis' assistant, who suggested he shouldn't have put his warning in writing. When Mason asked what the problem was, the assistant replied, "It's the big number," Mason recalled in videotaped testimony.

The top kill was among several methods that didn't work. Other attempts, such as the Cofferdam and the "top hat," also failed. The terms were obscure industry jargon before the spill but became buzzwords as the company scrambled to find a way to plug the well.

BP insists it was properly prepared to respond to the disaster, but Barr argued the company could have capped the well much sooner if it hadn't ignored decades of warnings about the risks of a deep-water blowout.

"BP refused to spend any time or money preparing to stop a deep-water blowout at its source," he said.

BP used a capping stack to finally stop the gusher on July 15, 2010. Brock rejected the notion that BP could have stopped the spill much sooner if it had a pre-built capping stack on hand. Nobody in the industry had used such a device before, he added.

"It was a unique situation," he said. "It was a unique blowout."

Under the Clean Water Act, a polluter can be forced to pay a maximum of either $1,100 or $4,300 per barrel of spilled oil. The higher maximum applies if the company is found grossly negligent, as the government argues BP should be. But the penalties can be assessed at amounts lower than those caps. Congress passed a law dictating that 80 percent of the Clean Water Act penalties paid by BP must be divided among the Gulf states.

The Justice Department's experts estimate 4.2 million barrels, or 176 million gallons, spilled into the Gulf. BP has urged Barbier to use an estimate of 2.45 million barrels, or nearly 103 million gallons, in calculating any Clean Water Act fines. Both sides agree that 810,000 barrels, or 34 million gallons, was captured before it could pollute the Gulf.

Using the government's figures, a maximum penalty if the company is found negligent could total $18 billion. Using the company's figures, that maximum penalty would be around $10.5 billion.

In late July, BP reported a second quarter net profit of $2 billion as lower oil prices, higher taxes and a drop in income from its operations in Russia took their toll on the company. The company has already set aside more than $42 billion for the oil spill, including damage claims from residents and businesses.

Barbier has outlined a rigid schedule for attorneys to present their arguments and evidence over the next four weeks. A penalty phase for the trial has not been scheduled yet.